LISBON — Hall-Dale boys’ soccer doesn’t give up many goals and almost never knows the feeling of seeing a bigger number in the opponent’s column on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs showed the Lisbon Greyhounds on Tuesday afternoon that they can handle adversity and prosperity with equal dexterity.
It didn’t even take three minutes for Josh Berberich to match Austin Fournier’s early goal, and Ryan Sinclair’s strike with 1:25 remaining in the first half spelled the difference in a 2-1 MVC victory for the Bulldogs.
“We’re not used to that,” Sinclair said. “Last year we only got behind once in a game. It was shocking, but it’s good to know we can recover from it.”
Sinclair, a junior who’s accustomed to monitoring the midfield for Hall-Dale (9-1), moved up front as part of a dual-striker alignment after Fournier’s goal put Lisbon on top.
The switch paid dividends when Sinclair turned and rifled a loose ball past Lisbon goalkeeper Nate Bergeron from 15 yards away.
Ryan Fitzgerald won a 50-50 ball from Ryley Austin, heading it to the turf at Sinclair’s feet.
“If we’d had a good touch on it the first time it bounced around, but it kind of comes back and can bite you a little bit,” Lisbon coach Dan Sylvester. “It was a couple of miskicks on our part, and the kid came around and took a nice turn. It was a nice goal.”
Downcast by the sudden turn of events, Lisbon (6-4-1) struggled to generate any offense in the second half. The Greyhounds mustered only one long-range shot against Bulldogs keeper Brian Allen after the break, and only four in the game.
Bergeron made eight of his 10 saves in the second half, many at close range in leaping and diving fashion against Hall-Dale’s Nat Crocker.
“I think we’ve been behind four times, maybe five times since I’ve been coaching here,” Hall-Dale coach Andy Haskell said. “They put it home. They got the lead. We came back and started playing our style of soccer. I thought over the last 70 minutes we did a good job controlling.”
Lisbon suspected that deadball situations would its best opportunity to break through against Hall-Dale, which entered the game having allowed only three goals all season.
The Greyhounds took advantage of one in the seventh minute to snag the lead. Nick Lerette’s direct kick from 35 yards held up in the stiff breeze. Austin put a head on the ball to keep it alive, and Fournier buried his shot into the lower left corner of the cage.
“Against a team like Hall-Dale that’s well skilled, we’re looking to score on set pieces, because they’ll take away a lot of our opportunities,” Sylvester said.
Hall-Dale returned the favor off a corner kick by Crocker. It sailed wide from right to left, but Jake Young pushed it back toward the middle, where Berberich cleaned up inside the near post.
“We responded real quickly,” Haskell said. “We put Ryan up top, and Berberich got a goal right place, right time.”
Both defenses had reason to believe they would dominate the day.
Only three other teams had scored a goal this season against Greyhounds, who are 1-4-1 in their past six games and clinging to the final playoff spot in Class C West.
“This is a tough place to play. St. Dom’s came here and tied. Other teams have had 1-0 games here, tight games,” Haskell said. “We’re pretty happy that we were able to come in here and stick to the game plan. We still had a lot of scoring opportunities even when we went defensive-minded.”
Lisbon’s Austin and Hall-Dale’s Alex Guiou were defensive stalwarts throughout the game.
“We kind of ball-watched and let them back into it on that first goal, and that’s kind of been our thing this year. How do we respond to it?,” Sylvester said. “We kind of stayed deflated as opposed to picking ourselves back up.”